Divorce Settlement Case Comes Back To Arizona

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a case back to Arizona twice in one week. In one case, the Arizona Supreme Court ordered a veteran to compensate his ex-wife for money lost after switching part of his pension to disability benefits. The other case was very similar. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Arizona court to reconsider its ruling in both cases.

State Versus Federal Courts

These rulings happen often in Arizona. The high court has ordered the state’s court to reconsider a ruling on a divorce settlement pertaining to a divorced military couple twice in one week back in May.

Justice Stephen Breyer did acknowledge that the ruling may impose extra hardships on the ex-spouse who counted on that money. But stated that Congress has specifically made disability benefits off limits in divorce settlements.

In both cases sent back to the state court in May, the ex-wives of veterans were granted a share in the veteran’s pension. This is allowed in the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act of 1982. But the law also specifically protects a veteran’s disability pay from being a part of the divorce settlement. This specification was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1989 in a case known as Mansell.

Arizona’s Supreme Court argued that the veterans had the responsibility to compensate their ex-spouse for lost income. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, stating that states do not that the right to order ruling that Congress prohibits.`

The high court’s ruling could have an impact on all future military divorce cases. Family law experts have already begun discussing changes in divorce paperwork and practices in order to minimize lost financial protection for ex-spouses. The decision has already directed courts in Arizona and around 30 other states to modify their interpretation of the federal law regarding military retirement after a divorce.